To agree to disagree

To agree to disagree

I come across this phrase from time to time and at first I liked it. I thought, “Yes, that makes a lot of sense”. We are different people, have different views and we cannot agree on everything. Every day will look like this.. we can not agree 100% all the time, but for the phrase to become true, there needs to be some criteria fulfilled.

We can and will disagree with leadership and often it’s a good process that is full of respect and we can have dialogue around it. This always leads to a better way and a better outcome. Day to day we will often find ourselves disagreeing with something or someone. I disagree with a statement made by a politician or the reaction of a colleague. These are small things that normal people easily live with.

The problem occurs when major decisions are taken or we look at a case from different angles and there is no room for honest feedback. Feedback is the best friend of every leader, even if it’s not nice feedback. Without it you don’t get far. We need to train ourselves to listen and respect all kind of feedback without judging the one that gives it. “What can I learn?”, is the essential question when feedback is given.

I can always learn something and, if I have my security in place, I can handle all kinds of feedback. All leaders in local business and ministry will run into this and find ways to learn how to handle feedback that is not so nice and inspiring. At the same time it can give us leaders a good reality check of where we are and what the task is ahead of us.

When I am met with “Let’s just agree to disagree”, this phrase is in the way of any dialogue and any good, open talk, just because it’s easier.
It’s like leaders have to say, “I am the boss and, yes, it’s great that you have some thoughts here but we will disagree anyway”.

There is no learning or listening in that.

I love working with people that look at things from a different angle than myself. I can then get a wider perspective. It is not always easy, but where there are secure leaders there is room for dialogue.
In my leadership teams there have always been people that look at things from different angles than myself, people that are more into details, more caring for people and even much slower to implement changes than I would prefer. At the end of the day, we often underestimate the learning that happens in this kind of environment and we overestimate our own ability to lead.

If you can not be in a team or if you have not been in a team, I would question your ability to lead others, exactly because you have missed a lot of learning that happens in teams. This is a hard statement for some but in teams we are forced to work on our disagreements and, most of all, work them out so we can move on together.

‘To agree to disagree’ is therefore a statement that can only be used when all the processes, all good conversations (with a good cup of coffee) have taken place, and when we have walked all the extra miles needed to find a good win-win situation. That is when you know as a leader you have done a really good job but still the distance is too far. Still then I believe that we need to do what we can to remain in a good dialogue and relationship. This happens when me and you as leaders continue embracing people that look at things from a different point of view and have different perspectives to us.

‘To agree to disagree’ is a statement that I have stop using because I believe talking, sitting around the table together, and dialogue is so much more useful in our times. Eating together and fellowship are things that are more efficient in the long run than a good phrase that I wonder if we are misusing.


Until next time,
Lets get curious about the people we disagree with

Rune Saether

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